Tucked away in the far reaches of the Karakoram range in Northern Pakistan lies the world’s second-highest mountain: K2.
For people who love trekking and big mountains, the K2 Base Camp Trek is the ultimate bucket list trekking adventure.
If you have been browsing the websites of different companies, you will see that the K2 Base Camp Trek cost can vary a lot from under $1,500 all the way up to 12,000 USD!
Below, we provide some insights into the multiple factors that determine our K2 Base Camp Trek cost, some important ethical issues that matter to us (which we also hope to pass on to our community of trekkers!), and a bunch more other musings.
K2 Base Camp Trek Cost: This is a Real Expedition
The K2 Base Camp Trek is a proper expedition-style trek. This can be summed up by the fact that there are no supply depots, hotels, or points along the trek to accumulate more food or gear.
Everything must be carried by the porter and mule teams for the few weeks needed to complete the trek.
That means food, tents, group camp gear (mess tents), tables, chairs, toilet tent, all the kitchen cookware, a generator, food for the porters and other staff, medical supplies, lights, client duffel bags, and the list goes on and on and on.
The point is, the K2 Base Camp trek requires a lot of human labor. Porters hired from nearby villages make up the bulk of the workforce that makes this expedition possible.
Factor in the flights needed to get to Skardu from Islamabad, the hotels, all the group food, guide wages, permits, transportation, and jeeps – and it is easy to see that for any tour operator the K2 Base Camp Trek is an expensive logistical operation to run.
K2 Base Camp Trek Cost: Is it Possible to Hike it Cheaply?
For some travelers, budget is the number one deciding factor regarding who they will choose to book this trek with. We get it. Our founders spent years backpacking around the world on a budget before founding Epic.
We truly believe the spectrum of mountain adventures should be accessible for everyone who is interested and we strive to keep our prices for the various trips we run affordable as much as possible.
The goal is to strike the balance between offering a competitive experience to cost value while also keeping the standards and ethics we value high as well.
K2 Base Camp Trek Cost and Local Porters
How to price a trip and ensure the people working on the trip are paid a fair wage?
This is a perennial question in Pakistan for us and an ethical dilemma that Epic as a company has also had to come to terms with.
One of our biggest concerns has been centered around the wages for the porters.
For context, standard porter wages on the K2 Base Camp Trek are fixed by the Central Karakoram National Park administration every year at the start of the season. Companies hire porters from the rotating pool of men who put their names in the collective hat to be porters.
For 2023, the price is set at 1150 rupees ($4) per stage. There might be 2-3 stages on any given day of the itinerary. If a team has 10 paying clients, then there are probably going to be 30-40 porters involved in the expedition including human porters and men who manage the mule porters.
We find this wage too low for the work involved.
So what are we doing about it? Epic as a company has decided to supplement the standard porter wage amount in the form of tip supplements from our company itself and also by collecting a fixed amount of additional tips from our clients to ensure the porters can take home a fair wage for their efforts.
It is our hope that eventually we will contribute to changing the porter wage culture in Pakistan.
We also hope to be involved with the national park administration in the future with the goal being that they take some action as various organizations have done in Nepal to secure better working conditions for porters as the new standard.
Pakistan is not Switzerland. Porters are never going to make $300/day. But they do deserve a better wage than the current status quo – everyone involved in the adventure community can agree on that.
What Pakistan Can Learn from Nepal
When people ask us about some of the differences between the tourism industry and infrastructure between Nepal and Pakistan we tend to say “Pakistan is 30 years behind Nepal”.
Over the last 3 decades, Nepal has emerged as the global leader in adventure tourism.
The Nepalis have invested in a ton of tourism infrastructure, training programs (and rules around who can legally guide treks and climbs), and perhaps most importantly – greatly improved the working conditions of porters working on the busy hiking trails in the Himalayas.
Part of the “rawness” of Pakistan contributes to the magic of the country without a doubt – but the rawness can have various undesired effects of course as well.
The Nepali government recognized early on that tourism brings big money to Nepal and for some reason the Pakistani government has simply not acted with any degree of urgency with regard to tourism development in the country.
Pakistan has similar geographical luck of the draw as Nepal; incredible mountains, genuine hospitality, hard-working people, and ancient culture – yet when it comes to building proper tourist infrastructure, maintaining roads to popular trekking areas, setting fair wages for locals, or offering basic guide training courses; it is safe to say that the government falls short in many areas.
If the government in Pakistan takes some initiative on some of the issues – big and small – affecting the tourism industry, all companies will certainly be better equipped to safely and responsibly run trips like the K2 Base Camp Trek – which can also help to stabilize the K2 Base Camp Trek cost as well as wages for workers.
K2 Base Camp Trek Cost: Prioritizing Team Saftey and Our Staff Costs More
Factoring in what has been said above – you might now be able to understand why Epic trips are priced the way they are.
We do our best to never compromise the team safety, the wages of our staff, the little extras we provide, or the experiences of our clients. While no one company is perfect and never will be, we truly give it our best effort!
The K2 Base Camp Trek cost is what it is for our clients in order to ensure that we are able to tick all of the boxes that matter to us.
Our guides have years of first-hand experience leading challenging trekking trips in multiple countries and the proper training that comes with it.
It goes without saying – but these sorts of individuals are the kinds of people you want on your side during a remote, challenging trekking expedition.
Here are just some of the things you get when you book the K2 Base Camp Trek with us:
Two guides: one Western guide and one Pakistani guide
A staff that has been trained in basic wilderness first aid and who – with Epic Backpacker Tours management – has developed a comprehensive industry standard risk management plan.
Porter staff is paid 4x more on average
Guide staff is paid 9x more on average
Multiple satellite communication devices including a satellite phone and a Garmin In-reach
Pre-tour one-on-one consultations via video call
An option to be paired with a nutritionist in the months leading up to the trek (to build probiotic belly health).
A custom food menu
Small group size. We cap all of our treks at 12 members
- Company values and best practices that support the environment and ethical treatment of local workers.
Laughs, card games, and damn good French press coffee every morning!
What is the Cost of the K2 Base Camp Trek for Pakistani People?
We actually get this question a lot: “But we are from Pakistan, so can we pay $200 USD to do this trek with you?”. We wish the answer was yes!
The short answer is that while Pakistani nationals have slightly less to pay for the trekking permit to enter the national park – all of the over costs and logistics are the same.
From time to time we do offer discount specials, early bird pricing, etc which are open to everyone – including local Pakistani trekkers!
Wrap Up: K2 Base Camp Trek Cost
The K2 Base Camp Trek is one hell of an adventure. This trip is our favorite trip we run for a reason. The natural beauty, the raw journey, and the camaraderie of the team all come together to make this journey to the base of the world’s second-highest mountain the trip of a lifetime.
After reading this blog, you should now be aware of what the K2 Base Camp Trek cost involves, where your money goes when you book, and some of the aspects of the trek one should consider when calculating value vs the kind of experiences you want to have on the trek to K2 Base Camp.
Life is a balance and so are all the factors that go into a successful trekking expedition.
It is our hope that the adventure community in Pakistan – made up of both Western and local companies – can unite together to make a much-needed positive change regarding a few of the standards K2 Base Camp Trek and other similar multi-day treks are run.
In the end, we are all on the same team and working toward a better future that benefits the trekkers coming to Pakistan as well as the local communities that make them possible.
We hope you found this article helpful!
Please drop us a comment below and share your thoughts on some of the issues discussed in this article.
If you have personal experiences doing the K2 BC Trek yourself, please share your thoughts!